Reasserting the human in #edcmooc – we are receptacles for beauty

After immersing myself in the re-asserting the human segment of edcmooc, I went to sleep with gloomy thoughts, in my usual pessimistic way questioning if ‘the humanist project’ was worthy pursuit, and envisioning distopian future where technology only enhances our ugly underbellies.

I emerged next morning to this winter sunrise. It was breathtaking. Never mind the colours – just listen to the soundtrack! Did I just wake up in one of the Attenborough’s nature documentaries? My heart was flying with these birds. Was it tears in my eyes? (I really did feel like I was welling up with emotion, scout’s honour!)

I just had to share this beauty – so I grabbed my phone and here it is. I can now share it with my future self. I am sharing it with you! When my other half emerged from his slumber, I shared it with him.

So this is what it feels like to be human!

To be able to see and experience the beauty of things – including the beauty of nature, of ourselves, of human-made. To be driven to share this beauty, these emotions and these memories with others – isn’t this where art comes from (OK – it does come from ugly places too but I am trying to get a bit more positive here)?

The digital gives us a new set of tools to do this – to capture, to recreate and to share our positive emotional experiences. This is one message I will take away from this week’s viewing – ‘The World Maker’:

Building digital simulations of natural beauty The experience of beauty through digital simulation

How does it relate to learning? Well, I am a scientist. All too often our kind gets locked into the ‘objective facts and figures’ illusion in our teaching and learning (I think this is most common in university settings, which I am all too familiar with). We tend to deny the emotional side to our humanity as an interference in the process of science and try to impress this on our students. But isn’t it the beauty and amazement which drives us most effectively through the dark and treacherous corridors of research, towards the light of discovery? (if you do not believe me just have a read about “Scientists and their emotions” in this Guardian article) Why don’t we (I) share this more often in the classroom? Why don’t we get the students to share their own experiences of beauty in the subject they study?

I promise that from now on I will seek to re-assert the human as driven by beauty in my teaching and design. And I will not feel guilty about it! And lest I forget, I will keep replaying this melodysheep’s Science Symphony video for inspiration.

This, incidentally, puts an evolutionary perspective on what it is to be human in the context of ever evolving nature, with an effect of taking our egos down a notch;):

“we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming tree of life” (Richard Dawkins, at about 1:20 min)

So here is my answer to the course team’s call in the Friday Hangout for more on relationship between nature, humans, and transhumans:)

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